It was weird seeing large crowds where very few were wearing a mask, but after the initial shock, it was so great seeing actual familiar faces together again. The MBA Annual conference held at the San Diego Convention Center required attendees to be vaccinated to attend. It was so amazing to be reunited with in a room with thousands of people. It was great to be getting back to normal and to behaving as the social animals we were designed to be.
The appraisal industry was front and center at this show and most of the appraisal discussion centered around three specific topics: Technology, Trainees, and Diversity. The biggest news of the show was when Director Sandra Thompson of FHFA informed the crowd that the desktop appraisal regulations put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic would be permanent starting in 2022. This is important for multiple reasons. First, they found that there was not a drop off in quality between the desktop appraisal and traditional appraisals. They want to continue to allow appraisers the flexibility to use desktop appraisals rather than having to go into a house where there could be an infected person. Going forward, they will make risk-based decisions as to the level of appraisal needed. Secondly, this will allow technology companies, lenders, and appraisers to develop new processes and technologies around desktops.
Appraisal Technology was front and center at this show. Kenon Chen from Clear Capital discussed the digitization of the appraisal process. We learned a lot during this pandemic because we had to improvise, but now that we can look back at the data, we can see how successful it was. Of the 40,000 homeowner inspected hybrid appraisals requested, most were on par or better than the traditional appraisals. The average time saved on these offerings was six days. The amount of weekend and evening inspections were doubled and there were 75% fewer customer escalations per file.
The most positive metric was the growing acceptance within the appraiser population. Part of the increase in acceptance has been the ease of use through new technology. When home scans started, you needed a $3,500 device and tripod to scan a house. Then technology improved and you could get a smaller device that could carry in your hand, but you still needed a tripod and you still needed an hour to scan a house. Technology has advanced to the point that anyone with an iPhone 12 or better can now do house scans with just their phone. The Lidar even provides more accurate measurement numbers than traditional tape measurement. Appraising has always been part art and part science. Technology is helping us get less variance and more consistency with the science part of it.
There was a lot of discussion around appraisal shortage. Lyle Radke of Fannie Mae presented a slide that shows in the last eight years, the appraisal population has gone down 1% while loan demand has doubled. This is an unprecedented situation. We need a renewed focus on appraiser training to attract more appraisers into the industry. The most worrisome statistic from his presentation was that 30% of the current appraisal population is nearing retirement age. While I do think technology can extend the working age of appraisers longer into the future, especially without having to travel, the question we need to ask is if these appraisers WANT to extend their careers or if they are ready to retire. If they aren’t planning on staying in the industry, we need a major realignment to the barriers to entry for new trainees. Right now, the initial requirements are too onerous. More needs to be done to embrace a younger and more diversified workforce.
Along with technology and trainees, another hot button topic was diversity. One of the problems with the trainee pool is that most trainees traditionally enter the industry via family members. Appraisers should encourage their family to join the industry, but they must also take a step and bring in more people who may not be family. Kristy Fercho, the 2022 MBA Chairman, began the opening session talking about the priority issue of diversity in homeownership and diversity in hiring. It’s not just a moral imperative but a business imperative. We need to build a pipeline of diverse backgrounds and new ideas.
There was a lot of talk on the racial bias, but there was also some interesting information on what happens with a racial bias claim. Jillian White talked about some of the data on the racial bias claims. If you haven’t read Jillian’s article in the latest issue of the Appraisal Buzz Magazine, you can find it here. She talked about how most of the accusations of racial bias are on cash out refinances, but not all. They also see a large spike in claims immediately after the news report on the topic. The fallout is that there is an added two weeks to the timeline on average and less than 45% of loans are approved and/or closed.
Finally, I want to close with discussing Brad Meltzer’s keynote presentation on Legacy. Brad is a NYT best-selling author and the host of two TV shows on the history channel. He talked about the legacy we leave with our family, friends, community, and finally, strangers. He said your resume fades, your job title is gone after you die, but what you do for other people lives on. I want to highlight that point and ask appraisers to think about their legacy. What will be left of the appraisal industry when you are retired? Do you want the industry to end? I know you don’t want to feel that your life’s work is now just over. I personally want to encourage you all to embrace the younger generation and bring on a trainee. Let’s band together and keep the appraiser in appraisals. Learn new technology, bring a trainee into the industry, and embrace diversity so our legacy lives on even after were all gone.
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